Copyright and intellectual property

Copyright and intellectual property concerns for eCommons users

Avoiding copyright infringement

Two attestations in the eCommons license are prompts to ensure that submitters to eCommons do not violate copyright law:

  • Users must attest that by depositing content in eCommons, they are not infringing upon anyone's copyright (see the eCommons license).
  • Users must attest that they have the right to grant the rights contained in the eCommons license.

If you're uncertain whether you have the right to make the attestations above, or to share your work, the Copyright Services at Cornell University Library is a good source of information and guidance.

Protecting your own rights as an author and allowing others to use your work

The copyright holder of any work submitted to eCommons retains copyright to the work. Submission to eCommons imposes no restrictions on your future use of the work. However, it is a good idea to be explicit about what others can and cannot do with your work by applying a license to it. Creative Commons provides an easy way to license your work. With the exception of CC0, all Creative Commons licenses require that any use of your work is credited to you. In many cases, either the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) or Attribution-NonCommercial (CC BY-NC) are good choices for eCommons content, but the choice depends on the goals and concerns of the author and future publication plans (see "prior publication," below). Bethany Nowviskie makes a compelling case for CC BY in her essay Why, oh why, CC BY? CC0, technically a waiver and not a license, is a forfeiture all copyrights, and places the work in the public domain. 

The other Creative Commons licenses options depend on how each of the following two questions are answered in the submission process:

Allow commercial uses of your work?
Allow modifications of your work? No* Yes
Share-alike CC BY-NC-SA CC BY-SA

* The licensor permits others to copy, distribute and transmit the work. In return, licensees may not use the work for commercial purposes – unless they get the licensor's permission.

** The licensor permits others to copy, distribute and transmit only unaltered copies of the work – not derivative works based on it.

If you choose to apply a Creative Commons license to your work, we also recommend that you include the license you select within the work itself

By abstaining from selecting a Creative Commons License,  the author or copyright holder retains all copyrights in the submitted work. Application of a Creative Commons license to a work may requested at any time by the copyright holder, by contacting the eCommons administrator

For further resources on author rights, see Author Rights Resources. For data sets, we recommend you consult the Cornell Data Services's Introduction to intellectual property rights in data management.

Special considerations for research data

The Cornell Data Services provides a useful discussion of the applicability of copyright to research data, as well as the appropriate selection of licenses. These licenses cannot be specified in the standard submission process, but if you would like to request that we add a license to your work after submission, please contact us, including the handle or URL with your request.

Concerns about "prior publication"

If you are posting a paper that has or will be published in a journal, check the journal's copyright and self-archiving policy before submitting the work to eCommons. The Sherpa Romeo database provides an easy way to look up a journal's policies. A common publisher requirement for posting pre-publication papers is that the record also include a link to the publisher's version. Contact the eCommons administrators to request that we add a publisher's link to your paper in eCommons.

For more information on determining publishers' policies on prior publication, you might want to consult Understanding Publisher Methods.